Should the Mariners Add Wyatt Mills to Protect him in Rule 5 Draft?

The Seattle Mariners have been quite good at understanding where their prospects stand in the eyes of other organizations. They haven’t lost any significant players in the Rule 5 Draft in the Jerry Dipoto era, but that might change this winter.

The Seattle Mariners are almost certainly adding three players to their 40-man roster. Taylor Trammell, the prize of the Austin Nola trade, Sam Delaplane, and Juan Then all appear to be locks to be added to the 40-man roster, thus will be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. But what about Wyatt Mills? The third-round pick of the 2017 draft from Gonzaga, Mills carries a true middle-reliever profile. Entering 2020, Mills was a low side-arm, low 90’s fastball arm with a slider that flashed plus but was still too inconsistent to be trusted.

Mills was a somewhat surprising omission from the teams 60-man player pool, though Mills did land an invitation to the clubs developmental league in Arizona and we’ve heard an interesting report regarding Mills: he’s throwing harder. Mills sat 94-97 MPH with his fastball. This could be a game changer, especially if Mills can find more consistency in his slider. But is that enough to make the Mariners feel like they need to protect Mills? Our own Ty Gonzalez had this to say:

“Mills is now topping out at 97 MPH in the Mariners’ Fall Developmental League, has an equally good secondary offering with his slider, and throws both from one of the funkier arm angles you’ll see. To me, Mills is the more interesting arm and, quite frankly, fun.”

Mills has thrown strikes in the minors (2.8 BB/9) and has a history of missing bats (11 K/9), but has done most of that damage at the A-ball levels. In two stints in AA Arkansas, Mills has been okay, but nothing to write home about. Arm-angle aside, baseball is littered with pitchers like Mills. There is no shortage of 6th inning relievers and more are being made every day. The velocity jump should help Mills get more value from the fastball, but the real issue is the slider. It needs to be better.

Mills’ comparison for most of his professional career has been Steve Cishek who, despite the seemingly collective cognitive dissonance of Mariners fans, has had an extremely effective career. That type of arm is valuable. But you need to see it before you jump all in.

40-man roster spots are valuable. If you’re giving one to a player like Mills, it comes with an expectation that he is going to help you in 2021. Do the Mariners feel that way? Maybe. Time will ultimately tell, but Mills is perhaps the only interesting decision point in the teams 40-man roster decision.

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